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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thunder Road

After a pretty decent night of sleep, I got out of bed at ten after six and went downstairs to eat my light breakfast of a bagel with peanut butter and a banana. Washing it down with water, I then hoped in the shower and finished getting ready as Katie and I left our house at ten till seven to go pick Kristen up, and then head uptown. Once we got by the Convention Center, they dropped me off and I said my goodbyes, and went inside to take my gel, kill sometime, and, yes, use the bathroom again. I definitely wanted to do everything possible to not have to stop during the race, like I did in Feb.

The line to the bathroom was long, and once I made my way to the start, the National Anthem was already underway. I knew it was almost go time - yet I could tell I had missed my opportunity to get up near the front of the pack. In fact, I had missed my opportunity to get in the middle of the pack. Seemingly, a lot of runners grew frantic as the countdown started and we were all pushing our way to get lined up.

I managed to stay pretty calm, because I knew my chip laced to my shoe would trigger the computers to show my accurate result, like everyone else in the race. Still, once I crossed the Start Line, being so far in back, I had to fight my way through the crowds for the first mile to find any kind of room. Thinking I was going to be very slow the first mile given the crowds - and given the downhill of the start, I actually overcompensated and hit the first mile split about a minute faster than I had planned.

Oh well - I knew it wasn't drastic enough to ruin my race, so I pumped the brakes and eased into more of what I thought was a slower/smarter pace. I did slow considerably, yet was still faster than I wanted. Picking up on the cues, I decided to not fight my legs and trust my training and try and keep my pace where it was - because I could tell that it was definitely easy and comfortable and I was totally in control.

It was around the 3rd mile when I came up to a yellow shirted pace runner. I asked him what he was going to run and he told me 3:15. I considered this a sign of progress, as I was working my way up and making up ground from the chaotic start. I ran with the pace runner for less than a mile, for he told me that I shouldn't waste too much time in hanging with him if I was going to try and hit 3:10. Also, his pace seemed too easy and slow - despite the plan of starting off over goal pace. While I clipped off from the pace setter, a runner up ahead heard me mention I was shooting for 3:10, and said he was going to do the half in 1:30 and that he had run a 3:08 in a previous marathon. I thought I would feel the pace off him for a little bit, but I found myself leaving him unintentionally, and decided to not hold back.

As we went down south on Providence Rd., I saw my first of many supporters. Mike Mitchell was in his Appalachian State black Track and Field hoodie, and I told him as I passed "the pace feels so easy!" I was definitely enjoying the race so far. Before I got to the 5 mile split, I recognized my high school 4x800 state champion teammate Brain Baum! This was a surprise. I hadn't seen him in at least a year or two. We ran together for maybe close to a mile, while he was trying to hold to a pace that would garner him a 1:35 Half. Seeing my Dad like I had planned at the corner of Sharon Ln. and Providence, I shed my long sleeve shirt and threw it to him and got a little boost from his encouragement, as well as seeing the Blackwood family on the corner too. Going down Sharon Ln., I started to pull away from Brain - so I gave him a pound and wished him luck, and then headed into the tree lined street of Arbor Way - the entrance to the affluent Foxcroft neighborhood.

Now, despite being a native of Charlotte, I figured there would have to at least be someplace that was unfamiliar to me on the course. This neighborhood was it. It was a rolling, pretty, old-money type neighborhood with big yards, and pretty people out cheering on the runners sipping cocoa and mimosas. Miles 6-8 ran through here. I took my first energy chews right before I entered the neighborhood and finally found a rhythm to my pace for the long haul that seemed to settle me in and allow me to enjoy taking in the scenery and energy of the event.

Continuing to run alone, I cruised down Sharon Rd. towards Myers Park while giving the customary "good job" to the random people I passed. I passed Mike M. again around mile 9, and he said "How Ya Feeling?" to which I responded "good - just have to pee!" Before I was out of ear shot - he told me David was about 15 seconds up ahead. Of course I had my eyes open for him, Oelz, and Alan (my buddy who was doing the half) from the beginning, but hadn't seen or heard from them the start.

When I left Mitchell, I spotted David up ahead, but thought I had better take care of business before I came up to him. Realizing that I had been running sub 7 minute pace for the last 4 miles, I decided it was safe to use the porta john I saw up ahead during mile 10. I knew I couldn't hold it forever, and so I slid in and out and figured from looking at my watch it cost me approx. 35 seconds.

Heading onto Queens, I passed the Blackwoods for the second time and started slowly reeling in David. I was running a little faster this 11th mile to try and make up some time from having to use the bathroom. I passed Mark and Andy, and again my Dad who snapped a couple more pictures, and continued to make progress on David. After splitting the 11th mile, I took a couple more chews and started my way down Kings Dr. This was familiar territory, as this part of the course was the same as the Half Marathon from November. I got a big boost from the folks at the corner of Kings and Morehead, and started making my way up the hill. After we crested the hill and turned off Morehead - I finally came beside David and we exchanged pleasantries.

He said he was feeling pretty good, and we both commented on how we were obviously going along faster than our goal/plan, but that we both generally felt in control and were allowing the feel of the race to dictate our pace. It was pretty much perfect timing when I caught David, as it was just before the turn off for the Half Marathoners and the Full Marathoners. While the first half of the race I generally was running with people either beside me or within a few strides of me, as soon as David and I left the Halfers, we noticed that we were pretty much all alone. Thus, the perfect time to have someone with you. It was David and I, a few people strewn out behind us some 20 meters or more, and maybe 4-5 people spaced out rather far in front of us. Pretty thin.

We worked together miles 13-15, and I personally got some more "boosts" from familiar faces in seeing the Blackwoods, Dad, Jason Martin, Gary, and my sweet Mother in Law during this stretch. That 16th mile, as we turned up Mint St. David told me he was going to hang back on the pace, as we started creeping into the low 6:40s. (7:15 is pace for 3:10 - Boston Qualifying, both of our goals) I totally thought he was being smart, and not wanting to jeopardize the prospect of a good start to fall apart later was definitely a seasoned move.

The marathon is totally a strategy race, and one where you have to be patient and practice restraint. Yet for me, this was one where I was going on faith, hope and trust as I was keeping the pace well under goal, and not doing anything intentional to alter it. I guess I was in tune enough with my body, and also familiar enough from having a marathon under my belt, to trust my ability to maintain - and sensed that I still had a lot more in the tank. Ideally, I was hoping to keep the pace where it was 6:45-55, and be able to drop it the last 5 miles.

For the first time I was without people surrounding me, or a familiar face, and was in the midst of the more desolate stretches of the course as I passed Panthers Stadium and went into mile 17. Here, I took a couple more energy chews, tried to keep my focus, and think of all the 8-10 mile tempo runs I had done in my training, and tell myself I could hang on. Actually, I was also looking forward to getting out of downtown and into the, what I would hope to be, fun stretch of NODA and Plaza Midwood.

Before I left downtown, I saw wifey, Kristen, and Emily and gave them high fives as I passed, playing off the crowd and absorbing as much as I could of the cheers to give me another boost. I took that buzz as I went went away from uptown via windy, desolate, Caldwell St. It also seemed that the weather was turning greyer and gloomier here, but perhaps that was also enhanced by the state of mind I was in given my place on the course.

I saw my Dad and the Blackwoods again around mile 18, and I could tell that they were getting pumped up since I was holding a strong pace and making my way up through the rankings. Sensing that gave me a big boost, and I continued on up into the funky section of Charlotte - NODA.

This is where the race really shined, in my opinion. Obviously the last 6 miles of a marathon are the most grueling, but the folks did their part to keep you encouraged and motivated. Whether it was outdoor parties, music bumping from cars, guys playing guitars on their front lawns, Chariots of Fire playing from large amplifiers, or the homemade "Wall" that we passed through, the locals did their part in giving back to the community with their fun and honest support.

At mile 21 I took my last supplement, a caffinated energy gel, which I was told had protein in it as well. This was the magic ingredient/placebo that was going to get my through to the finish. Before I started cruising down The Plaza, I passed my Dad and the Blackwoods, as well as Mark and Andy, at mile 22 and totally fed off their buzz as they were really rooting hard and pumped as I was high up in place than when they had seen me last. Up until this point, no one in the race had passed me, and this would hold true to the finish.

I think seeing that support was huge, as my 23rd mile was my fastest mile of the race! I'd like to venture and say that that doesn't happen very much. Anyway, I did pay a little bit for it on mile 24, as it was here that I really started to feel the pounding, and had to make a strong mental effort to keep it up. Right before the big hill going up Hawthorne, I passed a recognizable "quality" runner - as he was someone who had edged me out the last few hundred meters of the Lung Strong 15k. I took energy from passing him, and charging up the hill - and savoring the fact that I was less than 2 miles from being finished.

As we made our way back into downtown, I spotted four or five runners ahead, one of them being a female, and noticed I was catching up to them. I thought, picking off a few more people is a good goal to ensure I finish strong. I was able to catch that group before I rounded my last turn and hit the straight away to the finish. With around 200 meters to go, I saw Mr. and Mrs. Oelz cheer me on, and charged HARD up the to the finish, while also catching my wife, and all the other friends on the side near the tape who were yelling for me. I ran alongside the chute and gave them five and finished feeling totally pumped up. I had done what I had set out to do....and then some. A lot of some. While I kept thinking (from about mile 20 on) as each mile ticked off, that I would be close to breaking 3 hours, I just wanted to make sure I finished as well as I could and put as much distance from breaking my goal as I could. I had pretty much done that - 3:01:50 as I took my last step. I wasn't sure until later what my accurate 'chiptime' was, but I realized right away I was surely sub 3:01.

A new HUGE PR, a negative split of 1:30+ from half to half, a strong finish, and a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon!

Thanks to everyone who was out there cheering me on, and to all those who sent me messages. Your support was huge. Thanks also to my wife who rolled with my training without complaint, and who always made me feel good each time I put on my running shorts with compliments of "I wish I had your legs!" haha. I joke, I joke.

Marathon (26.2mi): 3:00:40 (Chip time), 3:01:50 (Gun time)

10k split: 43:22
1st Half (13.1mi) split: 1:31:07
20mi split: 2:18:13    /   {13.1-20mi  47:06, 6:49 pace}
2nd Half (13.1mi) split: 1:29:33
                                    {last 10k, 20-26.2mi  42:27, 6:49 pace}

Overall (of 1,290): 27th Place (Gun), 24th Fastest (Chip)
8th Place Division (of 88): Male 25-29

Mile Splits:
1.) 6:34
2.) 7:14
3.) 7:02
4.) 6:53
5.) 7:18
6.) 6:52
7.) 6:56
8.) 6:54
9.) 6:44
.2) 1:22

Pace: 6:53.44 per mile

Link to results

Friday, December 10, 2010

Final Shake - Out

Jogged/did Strides around the block in the neighborhood to shake the legs out and make sure everything is primed and ready to go. Defintily ready and legs feeling fine.

Mile: 1

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Last run

Got home from work, changed clothes, and set off for 3 miles around the neighborhood. Pace was around 7:05, 7:20-30 for the next two. Legs felt fine, and nothing else to report. Just looking forward to the Race Saturday.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cold as (fill in the blank)

Even though it was only 3 miles, the thought of being outside for 20+ mins was not appealing. Definitly the coldest run of the year. Probably high 20's and almost dark by the time I set out to trot around the neighborhood.

Splits: 7.15, 7:35, 7:30

Legs felt fine.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Final Long Run

Welp, here we are. Less than 1 week away from the marathon. It's nice to look back and see all the work put in over the last 18 weeks, and relish the excitement building up to the race. Such attention running a marathon garners (I suppose the first few anyway) from friends and family; I guess that is part of the fruits of the labor. Anyway I am trying to be in the moment, and enjoy this time before the race. Soon it will be over, and be only a memory. Speaking of which, I was commenting to Katie the other day how I really feel like the days just fly by. Perhaps the winter months make the days seem even shorter, but when I get off work, run, and lay around for a bit during the week, I find myself in bed thinking "here we are, another day gone, another day in the morning." I digress...

So, after waiting 10 minutes by my clock, I figured Dave wasn't coming since he is never late (and also because I didn't have my phone, wondered if he assumed a different entrance to McAlpine), and decided to start the run. The route was just out to Harris and back for 8 miles total. Some nice symmetry where the long runs of this training phase have been bookend by a couple of 8 milers. Funny how much easier this one felt, not to mention about 60 degrees cooler as well!

As I was just heading back from the turnaround post, Dave passed me and I waited a couple of minutes for him to catch up so we could finish our run together. We averaged around 730's for the last 4 miles, while I would say (since I left my watch at home) my first 4 miles were in the 740s.

The legs felt fine once again, and the pace seemed comfortable. Just bidding my time until Saturday!

Friday, December 3, 2010

4 at 4

Met David after work, at 4pm, for 4 miles at Freedom Park. Obviously we took to the streets, and stayed around Myers Park. It was cold, so our pace started out a little quicker than the slow 8 mind pace, and remained there pretty much for the next 30 mins. Legs were feeling good, and nothing negative to report.

Miles: 4
Time (approx): 7:25, 7:45, 7:36, 7:30

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Feeling out the pace

For the "workout" this week, I saught advice from Carson and Deal, and both suggested I simply do a shorter tempo run at marathon pace, in order to become more familiar with the ideal pace.

Met David at Freedom park, and after a mile warm up we went into a 5 mile 7:00 min/mile tempo run. We actually averaged 6:59 pace, and it was nice to see that all of our miles were right on target from the beginning. That tells me that I am getting honed in on what the pace needs to feel like for my goal.

After a 1.35 mile cool down we were finished. Temperature was cold.

Miles: 7.35